As many people know, the Friday the 13th films were major moneymakers throughout the 80s. The original grossed almost $40,000,000 in its US theatrical run, and altogether, the first four entries raised a box office of over $120,000,000. This was an extremely well put together moneymaking series that gave Paramount an icon to be proud of. Jason Voorhess, the killer from the second, third and fourth films that, up to this point, donned a hockey mask, seemed unstoppable. However, in the finale of the fourth movie, Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, we left Jason dead on the floor of a cabin home - his head all hacked to pieces. Paramount had to think of a way to move the series along without the inclusion of Jason Voorhees. But back in 1982, when Halloween III: Season of the Witch was released, it was a box office bomb with the main killer from the first two films, Michael Myers, absent. Somehow Part V needed to involve the legend of Jason, and at the same time, not exclude the fact that the terrifying antagonist was six feet under. The eventual response to this dilemma shocked many. How did the story continue?
Survivor from the previous entry, Tommy Jarvis (now played by John Shepherd), is an unstable teen being transported to a halfway house in Pinehurst. The memory of Jason still haunts him. Pam Roberts (Melanie Kinnaman) and Matt (Richard Young) attempt to make Tommy feel comfortable with the other halfway house members. It’s a new beginning of the next chapter in his life without the recurring thoughts about Jason. Victor Fadden (Mark Venturini), another troubled young man at the house, takes out his anger on acquaintance Joey (Dominick Brascia of They’re Playing with Fire, Evil Laugh, and Rush Week) with a large axe. Though nearly everybody is sad, they know that Victor will get what’s coming to him, and that they can move on with their lives. Somebody, however, cannot move on. Wearing a hockey mask and sporting a machete, road flares, meat cleavers and more, a figure out for revenge is killing locals on the road. And the worst part is: the road ends at Pinehurst’s halfway house. Has Victor escaped? Is Tommy going crazy? Or has the legend himself, Jason Voorhees, risen from the grave? ‘The mindless, murderous fury that was buried with Jason has been reborn’.
One thing you’ll notice immediately in Friday the 13th Part V: A New Beginning are the many colorful, stylish, and sometimes hilarious characters that appear within. Tommy does not talk a lot, but all of the others guests sure do, and their dirty words seem to spread like wild fire. Ethel (Carol Locatell) and her son Junior (Ron Sloan) are two hillbillies living off the land a few yards away from the halfway house. Ethel’s constant blabbering is a joy to watch, with lines such as “You big dildo. Eat your fucking slop”, “Horse shit!”, “About time you fuck wad”, “That is one fucking ugly man that goes there”, “Would you shut the fuck up?”, and of course, “Eeeeyah!”. Junior can be a bit irritating, but the duo work well with one another. The strange thing about these two, and the other characters, are that you instantly believe that these are all horribly acted and performed. In all actuality, the acting is above average for a slasher of its time. The characters are meant to be far out, and overacting is part of this job.
Reggie (Shavar Ross), also known as Reggie the Reckless, is a young boy with a lot of energy and free time. He is visiting his grandfather George (Vernon Washington), the halfway house’s cook. The halfway characters are a lot of fun as well. We have Robin (Juliette Cummins of Psycho III and Slumber Party Massacre II) a redheaded sweet girl, Jake (Jerry Pavlon) a stuttering and intelligent man, Tina and Eddie (Debi Sue Voorhees and John Robert Dixon) a sexually active couple who smoke dope on the side, and my favorite, Violet (Tiffany Helm) a new wave listening punk chick with enough attitude to make you shake a fist at in triumph. Although she isn’t in the movie very much, and she only truly stands out in her robot dance to the song His Eyes by Pseudo Echo, she’s a fan favorite, as well as my own.
To obtain an R rating, the Friday the 13th films often undergo drastic changes in gore sequences. For Part V, nearly all of the kills were cut by some amount. With the body count nearing two dozen, the only hope for shocking the audience was quantity over quality. Even with these minor set backs, A New Beginning remains a very violent film with blood shedding and gory aftermaths. When people are stabbed with a machete, there is usually is quick cut to insure that gushing blood is not present. The variety of kills in Part V are the result of a few needless characters. Although they are all fun and most add to the story, they are mainly there to up the body bags. People are stabbed, decapitated, sliced, impaled with spikes, and hacked up with a double-sided axe. Eyes are a vulnerable part of the human body, and this time around, the killer expresses their true feelings toward them. A man is thrown through a window after his eyes have been gouged out. In the only sex scene of the feature, Tina and Eddie are exploring each other’s bodies when Eddie leaves to freshen up. Tina screams before the killer quickly crunches out her eyes with a pair of hedge clippers. One of the most original deaths following is that of Eddie’s, where after he finds Tina dead on her blanket, the killer throws a belt around his head and tightens it against a tree until the belt squeezes his head. The belt is covering his eyes, which are soon sunken in.
Although Part V is clearly set in the 80s, you can’t help but notice 50s influences. Billy (Bob De Simone) and Lana (Rebecca Wood-Sharkey) confront each other about an evening to themselves at a diner with Billy’s older modelled car. However, that is of no comparison to the two greasers whose car breaks down on the side of the road. Wearing Converse sneakers, rolled up tight jeans, white t-shirts, black leather jackets and an adorable black hat, Pete (Corey Parker) and Vinnie (Anthony Barrile) are walking time machines, or perhaps stranded Broadway Grease actors. There has been some speculation in the past over Pete and Vinnie's sexuality. The more you watch the film, the more easier it is to see the two as gay teenagers. The two of them fight like a married couple, and Pete taunts Vinnie about fixing the car as if he were the stereotypical woman in the relationship that isn’t working. They must have just returned from Ethel’s place, seeing as how their vocabulary is so vulgar. It should be noted that Friday the 13th Part V uses the word ‘fuck’ at least over thirty times in its runtime. That’s a Friday the 13th record for the series.
Although it’s closer to the slasher family, Part V is one of the very few American films to come within reach of being a giallo. We have the multiple red herrings, many suspicious lines being delivered leading you to believe people know more than they do, and in the original uncut version, the kills are overly long and exaggerated. Where the writing may not be flawless, the story is certainly a trip down memory lane. In the original, the killer is avenging the death of her son, Jason Voorhees. In Part V, we also have a person seeking revenge for a loss they have endured. The atmosphere is just as creepy, although ever so humorous, as the previous four entries. A New Beginning is the final film in the Friday the 13th saga to possess such an eerie tone, as well as hide the killer throughout. We only see glimpses of the hockey mask assassin’s legs, hands, and weapons when they dispatch their victims. This is much creepier than the later sequels, which would show Jason Voorhees in full body, dragging down the audience’s interest and tensity.
The score has been altered with a more classical feel, turning the 80s techno into 70s dark drama. This is another aspect of A New Beginning that ends the road for the series, aside from Friday the 13th Part VII: The New Blood, which borrows some musical pieces from The Final Chapter and A New Beginning. There are some major cheesy highlights, and at times, sections of the film do not seem correctly approached. Pam, Tommy and Reggie are driving to the trailer park so that Reggie can visit his older brother Demon (Miguel A. Núñez, Jr.) and his girlfriend Anita (Jeré Fields). The simple drive to the park is so oddly scored with tense, dangerous rhythms that it’s hard to take the film seriously. Overall, you probably shouldn’t. There are a lot of strange behaviours in Part V, with mayors having tantrums, cats falling from above, and “damn enchiladas”.
The dumbest part of A New Beginning is the infamous karate scene, where Tommy completely loses it and takes out his black belt on Junior. The scene is so out of place that it’s actually formidable, in its own way. The chase scene at the end is one of the best in the series, along with Part 1, Part 3, and Jason Goes to Hell. When the credits roll, you think that you know exactly what Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives will be about, but no. That entry ignores this one’s end, or at least rearranges the audience’s perception. Although Part VI is full of creativity and great writing, it simply isn’t as much of a Friday the 13th film as the original five. The twist is refreshing in Part V, but I’m afraid it has shared the same fate as April Fool’s Day in the experimental ideas department.
All in all, this really is the last entry that you have to see, and it’s perfect for both yourself and a party. So if you’re interested in a bonanza of slasher heaven, and you feel that you are up for the ‘surprise’ twist, then I recommend everyone give it a shot. Watch for the chainsaw versus machete battle in the creepy barn, as well as multiple dreams and hallucinations. “Freakin’ A! Where’d you get that?” Well Reggie, I found it in the From Crystal Lake to Manhattan Box Set, released by Paramount. The trailer for Part V is poorly put together, and the special featurette isn’t all that it could be. It is also released on a separate DVD from 2001, though whichever way you take it, Part V is sure to entertain. The blue-cheeked hockey mask is also a nice change from the usual red. The raining and thundering storm is another atmospheric touch, one that aids in the transparency of Pam’s white shirt. “Solid!”Buy it!